Sunday, 29 December 2013

Top of the tree!

Well we were for a few hours until Arsenal’s win a St. James’ Park this afternoon. It felt good to be league leaders with exactly half the season’s games played and it was achieved after a gritty win against a very predictably-defensive Crystal Palace side who themselves had chances against a somewhat weakened City side.

Almost too much / too little

As I previously stated in my last post I was confident that Pellegrini had moved past his Premier League naivety by weakening teams too much on occasions but I retract that just a little bit now. He almost messed this one up.

In his defence, of course he had to rest key players who had not only just come through a congested fixture list but who had also just played out a very tough game against the then league leaders Liverpool less than 48 hours earlier. It was the correct decision to have one eye on a tricky game away at Swansea on Wednesday.

However, his persistence in his opinion that Javi Garcia is anything LIKE a football player is beginning to bug me and, no doubt, frustrate the hell out of Jack Rodwell. I don’t see Jack in training of course and I can only assume, therefore, that despite getting a seat on the bench yesterday he must be an utterly bobbins player! I say that because, well…he must be if Garcia persistently gets picked ahead of him!

Javi looked like a lost boy on the field of play yesterday; he looked hesitant for the most part. A couple of decent defensive headers aside I was scared to death that he was tasked with protecting our back 4 (even from very minimal Palace threat) and I could not believe that Pellegrini chose to remove Fernandinho for Nasri on 55 minutes! It wasn’t just my opinion in the area where I sit that Fernandinho should have been put back into his more-usual defensive role and that Garcia should have made way for the much needed, creative Frenchman.

Boyata on for Negredo during the same 55 minutes change was a strange one too. Although Dzeko CLEARLY needed some assistance up front in yet ANOTHER game where he largely struggled to even control the flippin’ ball; it meant that we then-also lost the support-attacking qualities of James Milner [moved to right-back] in a game where we were always going to struggle to break the opposition down.

Not content with making 2 very strange substitution decisions we then LOST the impressive Milner for…Kolarov! All of a sudden we had a left-back (Clichy) at right back and a rubbish left-back playing at left-back. Chuck a floundering Garcia and Dzeko into the mix and no WONDER 17th placed, defence-minded Palace had only 3 less shots than Liverpool just 2 days earlier; 4 of which were on target.

If you need any convincing that the Londoners did indeed cause us more problems than they should have done [given their formation-line-up and manager’s clear instructions] then look no further than the City player who got MotM – Joe Hart!


…win we did and for that, despite my frustrated ramblings; Manuel has to be given credit for orchestrating yet another victory.

And of course I have to give some credit to Edin for his (winning) goal at least. Despite being left in acres of room in a rare defensive, Palace slip-up; his finish was confident and precise. And at least this time he looked like he enjoyed his goal…unlike when scoring the 4th goal against Viktoria Plzen.

Shaun Goater has apparently come out and said that Edin’s work rate needs to improve. I – and my mate at the match yesterday – agree. However, Shaun is either being very kind, diplomatic or naive in not pointing out Edin’s true weakness, which is that…he just can’t flamin’-well control the flippin’ ball! When the ball comes to HIS feet it’s as though it’s been instantly transformed into a half-helium-filled beach ball! What’s wrong with the man?

There was one moment of very neat, quick footwork from the 6’ 4” striker yesterday but on that 1st half occasion he was running at goal. With his side or back to goal his teammates may as well pass the ball to the opposition because 9 times out of 10 that’s where it ends up after Edin has fumbled with it.

He’s so frustrating! If it’s not his sulking attitude that gets under my skin then it’s his inability to do one of the most fundamental things in football – control the ball! The clue is in the word “foot-ball”.

What Edin DOES do best – and he did it again yesterday – is score vital goals at crucial times. He has a (great) habit of popping up, changing and even winning games and for that I have to give him huge credit. In fact it might be the only reason he’s still at the club – he’s scored 34 from 90 games and a lot of those have come from the substitutes bench.

But like Jack Rodwell; John Guidetti (who didn’t even make the bench yesterday) must wonder how, with Aguero out and Negredo being mostly rested, he didn’t get ‘the call’ yesterday or, indeed, more often in general since his return to fitness.

Counter productive

I hope for Pellegrini and our sake that his personnel decisions don’t backfire at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday. Every person to a man and woman that I spoke to and heard at the game yesterday said the same thing, which was that he should have picked a stronger team; finished them off as soon as possible and THEN withdraw key players for the last 35 minutes or so.

I could understand their reasoning completely because what our manager affectively had to do [when it was clearly not working] was to bring on some of those ‘rested’ players to help rescue the game! Rather than being withdrawn and rested for the majority of the post-interval period, they ironically rested in the 1st half and had to play-out almost half a game in the SECOND period! As I say; somewhat counter productive in the end…


Not surprisingly we were outsung by a vibrant Crystal Palace support yesterday. Their home vocal support is excellent; they were always gonna travel in numbers and that large support is always going to be the louder of the two sets of fans…and that’s despite some recent efforts and improvements from Blues fans at home.

But not wanting to heave too much praise their way; part of the problem was nerves and huge concentration from City fans on the afore mentioned weakened side. You could feel a sense of trepidation from the start and although it could be (quite rightly) argued that we should have had even MORE reason to rise the roof in support of the team; most of us were like rabbits caught in headlights yesterday.

At the final whistle, rather than a loud cheer of victory; the structure of the Etihad Stadium itself breathed a huge sigh of relief!

Of course Palace fans – some of them clutching inflatable Champaign bottles for some strange reason - revelled in the fact that they were making pretty-much the only noise in a 47,107 crowd. But what I would say in response to their chant of…

“We sing all the time, we sign all the ti……me. We’re Crystal Palace, we sing all the time”.

…is good for you; you’ll be singing when you’re on your way down then.

So…fully rested = victory on Wednesday then, doesn’t it?

Well that’s the Pellegrini plan of course and I would fully expect a Vorm, Dyer and Michu-less Swansea City to be our next victims. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant because that’s just not me; nor is it the trait of any Manchester City fan I know.

But having seen Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Toure, Nasri and Negredo all mostly rested, you’d have to fancy us for all 3 points on the first day of 2014.

So, Wednesday’s line-up and formation then…

Formation: 4-5-1 / 4-2-3-1









Subs: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Lescott, Boyata, Garcia, Rodwell, Dzeko.

I’m going to assume here that Zaba didn’t even make the bench against Palace yesterday not because he’s broken down but rather he was just being protected after his quick hamstring recovery and subsequent, tough 90+ minutes against Liverpool. It’ll be great to have him back!

I’m also going to assume that Hart’s cut-black-eye acquired against Palace yesterday won’t stop him from playing.

With Silva suspended, I think James Milner will get an almost unprecedented two starts in a row! Being away from home - and with a largely 5/10 performance from Dzeko despite his goal – I think he’ll go 4-5-1’ish for this one. And so James will join a packed, counter-attacking City midfield behind the one they call, ‘The Beast’.

4 days should be enough time for the likes of Clichy, Kompany and Navas to have recovered and so I think they’ll all keep their place. Assuming Nastasic shows no ill effects from his first game back I think he’ll keep Lescott out of the starting 11.

I’d love to think that they’ll be a place for Guidetti before his almost-inevitable January loan but I doubt it very much and so it’s not a very inspiring-looking nor game-changing bench (but a very strong starting line-up at least).

Result? An away win.

There's no opportunity for me to make any updates between now and the game on January 1st because straight from a day in work tomorrow (boooo…) I’m heading to Stamford to spend a couple of days/nights with friends for ‘New Year’. With the forecast mostly predicting very wet ‘n’ windy weather over the 2 days, mulled wine and a log fire will be the order of the day I think.

Whatever you’re doing for New Year’s Eve have a good one and enjoy the Sky-televised game on Wednesday 12:45pm (GMT).

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